TRACK: Rams, fresh off long hiatus, showcase new talent at Early Bird Relays
By BRANDON HURLEY
For the first time in 688 days, Greene County’s entire track and field co-ed roster competed on an outdoor track.
They certainly didn’t disappoint.
The first Ram Early Bird Relays in two years was a showcase of young talent Monday, March 29 in Jefferson, with the Rams tallying nine gold medals in all.
The Greene County boys’ and girls’ track teams last took to the outdoor track in May 2019, but impressively shook off any lingering effects from the Coronavirus shutdown.
The Rams’ most recent outdoor action took place during the state co-ed meet May 16-19, 2019 at Drake Stadium in Des Moines, where a handful of local athletes competed among the state’s best. The last full rostered Greene County meet was at the 2019 state qualifying a week prior, a full 22 months ago.
A promising stable of athletes was poised to build off their recent success last spring before the state of Iowa canceled all spring athletics as well as classes due to the COVID-19 outbreak. The opening three weeks of the 2020 season were at first postponed before governor Kim Reynolds shuttered athletics all together in April.
Greene County’s annual season-opening meet was canceled last year in addition to the usual Ram Relays. The Coronavirus shutdown also meant the 2020 Drake Relays and the Iowa high school state co-ed meet were shelved as well.
The pain of a lost season surely lingered for a few months after the fact, which made Monday’s return even more satisfying.
The Rams certainly didn’t disappoint despite rather warm, yet remarkably windy conditions, stringing together a number of gold medals in addition to several other impressive showings.
The girls secured five gold medals while the boys picked up four first place medals.
The Greene County girls were ignited by Brooklyn Olson’s sweep in the throwing events. The senior captured gold in the shot put with a top throw of 37-09.5 and followed that up with a dominant victory in the discus, shucking out a toss of 114-03, which was 11-feet further then second place Kenzy Grady of South Hamilton, who’s top throw was only 103-10.
Fellow Greene County senior Bri Osterson secured the Rams third gold medal out of four in the field events, winning the long jump with a top leap of 16-01.
Greene County was also anchored by a pair of gold medal-winning relay events. The distance medley quartet of Makala Kafer, Olivia Shannon, Natalie Heupel and Katrina Heupel captured first place glory, finishing with a time of 4:49.4, blowing past second place South Hamilton, who ran to a time of 4:55.96.
Greene County’s 4-by-100-meter relay foursome of Shannon, Heupel, Kafer and Osterson also impressed, securing first with a blistering time of 54.18 seconds, more than a second faster than South Hamilton, who finished with a time of 55.98.
The Rams’ sprint medley quartet of Annie Twillie, Alexa Peters, Natalie Heupel and Shannon captured a bronze medal with a time of 2:00.61, a few seconds behind event champion South Hamilton (1:58.42) who edged out North Polk in a tight finish (1:58.66).
Kafer captured a silver medal in the 200-meter dash, finishing with a time of 30.10 seconds, a few steps behind South Hamilton’s Ashlyn Erickson (29.51). Twillie finished third in the 100-meter dash (14.72 seconds) while Alexa Peters came in fourth with a time of 15.12. Southeast Valley’s Kiersten Fisher won the event title with a time of 13.72. She also was triumphant in the high jump by clearing 5-04, an event she won the state title in as a freshman in 2018.
Osterson finished fourth in the 400-meter dash with a time of 1:08.47, trailing South Hamilton’s Ashlyn Erickson, who won with a time of 1:04.46.
No team scores were kept.
FIELD EVENTS SHINE FOR BOYS
The Greene County boys were powered by a pair of strong relay gold medals Monday evening en route to four event championships in addition to a trio of silver medals.
The Rams shuttle hurdle relay quartet of Jaxon Warnke, Bryce Stalder, Nathan Black and Jackson Morton won with ease, securing a time of 1:04.66 (which was Greene County’s quickest mark since 2017), well ahead of Manson-Northwest Webster, who finished runner-up with a time of 1:07.37. Morton also captured gold in the 110-meter high hurdles, winning with a time of 16.29, out-stepping North Polk’s Sal Capaldo at the finish (16.88).
Greene County’s 4-by-400-meter quartet of Luis Velazco, Nathan Wailes, Richard Daugherty and Warnke closed out the meet with a victory thanks a lightening quick time of 3:47.4, well ahead of second-place North Polk (3:51.47).
Junior Bryce Stalder captured first in the long jump with a personal-best leap of 21-03 while fellow classmate Nate Black secured a silver medal in the high jump, clearing a personal-best height of 6-04. Southeast Valley’s Kaleb Fisher also cleared 6-04 and won by virtue of fewer missed attempts.
Sophomore Jose Velazco finished second in the long jump with a top leap of 19-04.5.
The Rams were quite successful in the 4-by-200-meter relay as well, finishing second overall. The quartet of Rivera, Daugherty, Stalder and Black ran to a time of 1:37.07, well behind champion North Polk, who secured a winning time of 1:33.41.
Greene County’s distance medley relay grouping of Morton, Black, Jesse Miller and Luis Velazco finished third with a time of 4:404.91, just a shade behind St. Edmond for second place (4:03.91) while South Hamilton took home the title with a comfortable time of 3:58.35.
Logan Woodruff placed fifth in the boys’ 3,200-meter run, finishing with a time of 11:45.09, well behind North Polk’s Max Sporaa who won with a time of 11:02.61.
No teams were kept at the early bird event.
Greene County head coach was pleased with the opening night performance and was thrilled with the lack of rust.
“Very happy with our team’s efforts,” Morton said. “For our first meet, I couldn’t have asked for much more from our boys. Great performances from Bryce Stalder in the long jump and Nathan Black in the high jump.”